In his first town hall meeting in over two years, House Speaker Paul Ryan focused on a wide range of topics from health care to President Donald Trump’s statement on race riots to Foxconn bringing a $10 billion manufacturing plant to Wisconsin.

Ryan spoke at the Racine Theatre Guild Monday night as part of a town hall meeting organized by CNN. Hundreds of protesters lined the street in front of the theatre for hours prior to the event. An airplane also flew a banner calling on Ryan to “stop racist Trump.”

Ryan said Trump “messed up” on his tweets about the riots in Charlottesville. But when Ryan was asked about supporting to censure Trump, he said he opposed the idea.

“It is very, very important that we not make this a partisan food fight,” Ryan said. “It is very important that we unify in condemning this kind of violence, in condemning this kind of hatred.  And to make this us against them, Republicans against Democrats, pro-Trump, anti-Trump, that is a big mistake for our country, and that will demean the value of this important issue.”

For Kenosha resident and Ryan supporter, Kevin Matthewson, the Affordable Care Act was an important topic.  He explained that his premiums had increased and he has high deductibles. He voted for Ryan and Trump because they campaigned on repealing it and replacing it.

“Early on, you didn’t hold a vote, and then you voted on something that doesn’t seem to be palatable to the Senate,” Matthewson said. “I had high hopes since you’re the speaker and my congressional representative.  What happened?  How have you not been successful up until this point as a leader to get this done like you promised?”

Ryan explained that he is also disappointed that a replacement bill hasn’t been passed, but the House has done it’s job and they are pressuring the Senate to keep working on getting a bill passed.

“The reason I’m disappointed is because the status quo is not an option,” he said. “Obamacare is not working.  You just described your premium increases, your deductible increases…So doing nothing really isn’t an option.  So the Senate — honestly, the Senate has to get back and keep at it.  And so what I’ve been telling our friends in the Senate, get back to work, get a bill passed.”

Racine resident Paul Woodward Jr., a data center engineer, said he typically votes for Democrats, but will sometimes vote for Republican candidates. He said the room was pretty evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

“Those wishing to jeer Ryan behaved themselves for the most part,” Woodward Jr. said.

One man asked about Foxconn Technology Group, an electronics manufacturer proposing a $10 billion project in southeastern Wisconsin. Ryan explained to the crowd that if it wouldn’t have come to Wisconsin, it would have gone somewhere else and he feels the project is “a game changer” for the state.

“What I mean when I say that is, it is really in our interest to get ahead of the curve on tomorrow’s high-skilled, high-tech manufacturing jobs,” Ryan said. “More jobs are tied to Wisconsin per capita than any other state.  And we always have to stay ahead of the curve.  And by making sure that we’re bringing this sector to Wisconsin, which will bring other jobs and other employers, so we have high-skilled, high-tech jobs, that is very good for Wisconsin’s future.”

But for Woodward Jr., he didn’t quite buy Ryan’s premise and he needs more information, he said.

 

“He (Ryan) said that’s just business and other states are having to do the same thing,” he said. “But I’m still on the fence on Foxconn… it just feels like this is being sprung on a lot of people and they are voting on something a lot of people do not understand fully.”

 

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.